I agree with the simple statement that it's difficult to say with any certainty who manufactured this instrument for Ditson unless further investigated. You've explained very well the practices of companies such as Ditson and Bruno et al, where outsourcing was the business practice.
I also agree that this instrument, while in quite good condition considering it's age, is an entry level student model which more often than not, can be purchased for a song. The visual appearance of the neck set concerns me such that I truly can't see it being appropriately playable without considerable work being done to it. If the client were to bring it to me for correction, I do not even know that I'd accept the work considering what I believe it's value to be. Sentimentality is difficult to put aside for us restorers but I think its something that needs to be heavily considered with each instrument we are brought in such a state and throughly explained to the client. In this regard, I would agree with Frank and advise the client not to sell the instrument. I keep with me my father's "Lone Ranger - Hi Ho Silver" guitar, which is in a terrible state that I have unfortunately not had the time to attend to. It's something I would never sell and I hope the owner of this Ditson hangs on to his families history as well.
I don't disagree ... I have my grandmother's Martin uke that sits, sadly, in pieces until that 'rainy day'. ;-) Tom
some high resolution photos http://imgur.com/a/F4ZT5
That guitar has a stark resemblance to my guitar, could it be from the same factory but just attached to a different name? They look really similar
While it is a possibility, it is also a possibility that other companies such as Lyon & Healy, Haynes et al, as mentioned by Tom, also manufactured the instrument. Referring to it as a Ditson is, in my opinion, a fair statement. I doubt the label is a manipulation and the manufacturer isn't a make or break concern as much as assessing the instrument for what it is, is.
High res photos http://imgur.com/a/F4ZT5
Great photos. Nice to see it in the natural light. The back is some sort of quilt, very possibly laminate. I tend to lean towards maple for so much figure but there is a chance it could be birch or possibly something else. One would look inside to see if the quilting figure is present to match the exterior as well to get a better idea of the natural appearance of the wood. The sides seem plain and I think are very likely birch. I think the top is Sitka, the grain gets rather tight to be Adi but being an early instrument, it may be. The neck, I think is quite possibly Spanish cedar...maybe mahogany but I'm leaning towards the cedar.
Thanks for the additional images Ian. Amazing how it survived 100 years in that condition. Couple of things to note. First, the neck is askew in relation to the body. My guess is that the neck came very loose and shifted, since I see a gap in the heel. Not uncommon for a loose neck, but I only hope the neck block didn't give way to cause the shift. Not doubt it would not have left the factory like that, even for a student-grade instrument.
Also, the action is a mile high, indicating the need for a neck set.
I'm thinking the body is solid birch, and the back is faux-painted to give the impression of graining. Like Doc stated above, you can look inside to see for sure. From the pics, I'd guess the neck is cedar. Top is spruce, but I can't really tell the difference between Adi and Sitka, but in those days Adi ruled.
The look of the neck heel sure looks like Lyon & Healy / Washburn the way it comes to a sharp point, but to reiterate Doc's thought, who made it does not really factor into its value. That's more condition/materials. These little parlor guitars are easy to find, and not sought out like the 'name brand' guitars like Martin et al..Tom
Ian, there are many on the forum here that are highly skilled and do this work, and you could ship the guitar. Or, let us know where you live, and we could suggest someone in your area where you could drive. I don't take in outside work, since I have enough of my own.
Not the best idea to 'experiment' on such a clean guitar, especially with a neck set, since it takes some three dimensional thinking, not to mention hot steam and sharp tools! I started with flea market beaters, so the loss, if I messed up, was mitigated. Tom